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Canton mom and daughter seek donations for Africa trip


CANTON - Robin L. Rhodes-Crowell loves to travel. She also has a passion for social justice issues.

In May, she and her 13-year-old daughter, Emma L. Crowell, will make their second trip to Rwanda, Africa, where they’ll get a chance to fulfill both those missions.

Mrs. Rhodes-Crowell volunteers as an English language instructor and curriculum coordinator for the Ubushobozi organization.

Founded in 2008, Ubushobozi is a non-profit, vocational skills training organization that focuses on improving the lives of poverty-stricken girls and young women.

She and her daughter first traveled to Musanze, Rwanda, in 2010 after learning about the project through World Artisans, a store she previously operated in Potsdam with her husband, David R. Crowell.

“Many of the women are the head of their households,” Mrs. Rhodes-Crowell said. “Despite their situations, they have an incredible spirit of hope and strength that is infectious.”

Miss Crowell, a seventh-grader at McKenney Middle School, reflected on her first trip to Africa.

“I think it was really cool that the women were making money for their families,” she said. “We actually got to stay with them a few days.”

Through education and skills training, such as sewing and weaving, the Ubushobozi project seeks to end the cycle of poverty experienced by many of the country’s young girls.

Each student receives a sewing machine, sewing lessons, fabric, and an outlet for selling their creations such as bags, skirts and scarves.

They’re also provided with a weekly stipend, a daily nutritious meal and instruction in English, math, computers, health and sex education and traditional dance.

In 2008 the country’s official language switched from French to English, Mrs. Rhodes-Crowell said.

“There’s a big push now to learn the English language in the schools,” she said.

Mrs. Rhodes-Crowell works as an English as a second language instructor at St. Lawrence University and has teamed up with other faculty members to develop an internship program for SLU students who want to teach English in Rwanda.

She also teaches English as a second language for St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services and is the international student advisor at SUNY Potsdam.

During this trip to Africa, she will focus on assessing English language skills, developing lesson plans and creating a consistent curriculum that can be used by other volunteers. The 2 1/2-week trip starts May 22.

To assist her instructional work, Mrs. Crowell is seeking donations of school supplies such as pens, paper, dry erase makers and erasers. Also welcome are hand towels, toothbrushes, and new sports bras.

Sewing supplies such as buttons, zippers and thread will also be accepted, but fabric is not needed.

Children’s books, especially Dr. Seuss books, are welcome, as well as small children’s toys that don’t require electricity. Monetary donations that will be used to purchase supplies are also welcome.

“People can be assured that their donations will make a difference in someone’s life. It sounds cliche, but this project is really doing great work,” Mrs. Rhodes-Crowell said.

Those interested in making a donation can contact Mrs. Rhodes-Crowell at: or 261-3405.

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